H-E-B Preps South Flores Market for Grand Opening

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Editor’s Note: The H-E-B South Flores Market opened on Wednesday morning at the corner of Cesar E.  Chavez Boulevard and South Flores Street. Click here for the latest South Flores Market coverage.

South Flores Market, H-E-B’s newest and smallest grocery store, has yet to open its doors to the public in Southtown but it was buzzing with activity Tuesday morning as employees stocked shelves, cleaned glass doors, and prepped kitchen and bakery equipment before its grand opening Wednesday morning at 7 a.m.

The combination store and gas station promises to offer downtown residents what they’ve been requesting for years: an affordable, accessible, downtown grocery store. The store’s architecture and design – signage, materials, and branding – mix modern and retro elements for a more hip, urban feel that is unique to the grocery chain’s South Flores Street and East Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard location.

“There’s not a lot of red in here,” Meat Market Lead Nolan Barrera said of H-E-B’s signature color, which usually dominates the interior of its stores.

Commuting themed check lane signals are just some of the unique touches to the South Flores Market. Photo by Scott Ball.

Themed checkout lane signals are just some of the unique touches in the South Flores Market design – each represents a different mode of transportation (bike, walk, car, bus). Photo by Scott Ball.

South Flores Market does not have a pharmacy or deli station for custom cuts of meat, but H-E-B’s new, two-story Nogalitos store less than two miles away has a drive through pharmacy and Barrera said they could make room for more equipment in his department if needed.

“If there’s a demand for it, we’ll look into it,” Barrera said. “But I don’t think we’re going to need to turn anyone away. There’s a huge selection considering how small the space is.”

Reporters and photographers were granted a sneak peek of the store as H-E-B executives and merchants, in charge of product selection and display, monitored the finishing touches. With shelves and refrigerators nearly filled to capacity, Store Director Nick George stood near the entrance wearing a smile. He’s expecting a busy day tomorrow.

“The Chuck Ramirez piece really added an element that tied the store to downtown,” George said, pointing to the large photos of colorful brooms on display high above the aisles. In addition to the permanent exhibit of Ramirez’s work, the first 500 customers during tomorrow’s opening will receive a canvas bag featuring an image from his 2009 Euro Bag series.

Ramirez, who died tragically in a bike accident five years ago, worked for years as a graphics designer at H-E-B headquarters. (Read more: Works by Chuck Ramirez to Adorn South Flores Market.)

Previously, George was in charge of H-E-B’s Stone Oak location, an 80,000 sq. ft. store that employs about 300 people. The 12,000 sq. ft. South Flores Market employs 35 people.

“We’ve got a lot to learn about operating in a small, urban environment,” he said. South Flores Market will have everyday meal and household essentials as well as ready-to-go snacks that can be enjoyed on the patio by visitors and residents but the store is prepared to be flexible to customer needs and feedback

“Our pricing will be similar to what you see in other H-E-B stores,” he said, adding that the selection is smaller, but the basics are covered. “We have whatever you need … maybe not every size or every flavor, but everything is represented.”

The aisles are more narrow, the grocery carts are smaller, and the shelves are packed tighter than other H-E-B stores. The main challenge, said Dya Campos H-E-B’s director of public affairs, has been the effective use of space.

H-E-B Director of Public Affairs Dya Campos gives insight to the future of the South Flores Market. Photo by Scott Ball.

H-E-B Director of Public Affairs Dya Campos talks about the South Flores Market. Photo by Scott Ball.

“It’s extremely challenging to try and get the right mix (of merchandise) in there,” Campos said.

The employees, called “partners,” have been uniquely trained on how to collect customer feedback, she said. “The store team is small enough and attentive enough that they can take care of those suggestions. I don’t think we’ll need a comment box – that’s kind of cold and removed. The store team is going to be very integrated with customers here. We know that we’re going to have to change things right off the bat.”

Large, reclaimed wooden beams from the Joske’s Building were used in the store’s construction, the building is energy efficient, and the landscaping has been designed to accommodate storm water runoff. A “living wall” covered in ferns and grasses will keep the south-facing wall cool in the summer and insulated in the winter.

The living wall facing the Commanders House. Photo by Scott Ball.

The living wall of South Flores Market facing the Commander’s House. Photo by Scott Ball.

“Sustainability is important to us, the building will be LEED certified and environmentally friendly,” Campos said.

The store shares a yard with the Commander’s House, an adult and senior citizen activity center, and is adjacent to H-E-B’s headquarters in the historic Arsenal campus.

There are only 47 parking spaces in the store’s adjacent lot with limited street parking nearby, so the store is banking on customers walking, biking, and/or taking the bus from nearby historic neighborhoods, downtown employment centers and beyond.

“H-E-B has put a lot of work into the development of a downtown store for San Antonio,” stated Todd Piland, H-E-B’s executive vice president of real estate and facilities, in a news release. “Our commitment to the economic vitality of downtown is ever-present with the expansion of our corporate headquarters and the opening of the South Flores Market H-E-B.”

The South Flores Market at 516 S. Flores St. will be open seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting on Wednesday. The self-service fueling station in the parking lot will be open 24 hours daily.

 

*Top image: H-E-B employee of seven years Nolan Barrera walks by the refrigerated beverage coolers.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

Related Stories:

Works by Chuck Ramirez to Adorn South Flores Market

Chuck Ramirez at Blue Star: A Southtown Reunion for an Old Friend

H-E-B South Flores Market Designed for Everyone

Growth Enables H-E-B to Give 55,000 Employees Ownership Stake

18 thoughts on “H-E-B Preps South Flores Market for Grand Opening

  1. Were there bike racks available on the property during your sneak peek tour? HEB hopes people will be walking & biking to the new market, especially because it’s right next to the separated bike lanes on S. Flores & Arsenal, but folks will really need safe, comfortable parking for their bikes!

  2. With the store smaller than average,, AND it being near their offices, one would think the store would be open late… like 6am to 12 midnight.. I sometimes work till 6 to 7 or maybe meet friends for drinks or dinner and then go to the store on the way home.. I will never go if open only 7am to 8pm. I don’t go to the grocery store on weekends. It’s hard enough for me to make it to Whole Foods or Fresh Market,,, and they close at 10pm.. They need to stay open till a normal hour like 11 or 12.

      • If the demand is there I’m sure they will modify their hours for staying open later in the evening. Maybe hours will be one of the things they change right off the bat.

    • I agree Steve. Heck, I’d be happy with 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. I don’t get home until 7:30 or 8:00 most days. I’m sure the folks staying at those nearby hotels would like a place open past 8:00 as well. Hopefully these hours are just test run to gauge demand.

      • Given that it is RIGHT NEXT DOOR to HEB headquarters AND now the nearest grocery to downtown tourists… one would think they would invest in a public relations 24/7 store with a history of HEB on the walls… sort of like a tour of the company while you shop!! maybe it can get into the tour circuit that way? That would be the best way to gauge demand.

  3. HEB is being dumb about this. Many of the downtown and Southtown residents who plan to shop here are young professionals who work long hours. Many would like to buy a nice bottle of wine and some nice cheeses and other fancy snacks for an evening get together. They won’t be able to shop here when they need to. What good is it to have 700 different wines, imported cheeses and fresh sushi if you are closed during the prime hours that young professionals shop. That is a lot of lost business. I think a good starting place would be 8:00 AM to 10:00PM.

    • No, not really. Look at current demographics for the area. If you don’t think HEB and other large businesses don’t study demographics and markets before deciding on a location to build, then they wouldn’t have the successes that they have. This is also why the store is the size it is and not bigger: read – the urban density is not there.

      Just because “young professionals” hang out in Southtown, does not mean they represent a majority of folks that actually live there.

      But for the record, I’d like for it to be open later, too.

      • You would be surprised how little “demographic studies” are actually done by similar companies… and when they do them, they are framing the questions to answer in reference to the status quo.

        In NYC in the late 1990s, for example, from the 20s to 30s between Lower Broadway to Park Ave South. most of those office buildings had been marketed as B to C very cheap alternatives to people who would have gone A in the 30s to 40s Midtown if they could afford it. So the landlords automatically put in suspended acoustical tile ceilings and standard cheap wall to wall carpet when vacant and small private offices with admin in middle windowless open areas. But in late 1990s the market was changing to younger companies who wanted loft type offices and internet/computer startups looking for big open areas with concrete floors and structure ceilings… The TI (tenant improvement) was much cheaper with loft look, and rent would be higher, but the landlords already spent the money on the older look and vacancies were high until they stopped doing the older TI and gutted the space and shifted to the new dynamic.

        What is happening downtown SA is a market change. The existing supply does not match growing and future demand. Many of the older existing landlords don’t understand it because they have spent all their experience servicing a clientele that is no longer the primary demand driver… It’s a chicken and egg situation.

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